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    The world street

    Jonathan Rauch’s newest column is about a topic of great interest to us on the Pacific Rim:

    China — yes, repressive, aggressive Communist China — is now more highly regarded in the world than is the United States. A pair of recent BBC World Service polls of more than 20 countries finds that the plurality of respondents (47 percent to 38 percent) and of countries (15 out of 21) regard America’s influence in the world as “mainly negative.” A plurality of respondents (48 percent to 30 percent) and of countries (17 of 21, excluding the U.S.) regard Chinese influence in the world as “mainly positive.”

    Why the sharp turn against America? Not just because President Bush is personally unpopular abroad; Pew notes that world opinion of America did not plunge until 2003, well after Bush’s election. Nor, Pew finds, is the trans-Atlantic values gap wider today than it was in the early 1990s. Rather, says Pew, “in the eyes of others, the U.S. is a worrisome colossus,” quick to throw its weight around and selfish in its aims. In a 2003 Pew survey, majorities in seven of eight predominantly Muslim nations (including Turkey) said they regard America as a potential military threat to their own country. In a Eurobarometer poll of European Union nations in 2003, respondents placed America on a par with Iran as a threat to world peace. Pew finds that in France, Germany, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey, many people believe that America’s real goal in the war on terror is not to reduce terrorism but to dominate the world.

    Rauch is focused on how America’s motivations are viewed. His conclusions ring true to me, though, of course, data from polls have to be used with caution.

    I do think that another part of the problem is that too many of us take “people the world over long to be free of tyranny” to imply “people the world over long to live like Americans.” We Americans tend to take the idea of government by the people pretty literally. (Of course, sometimes we do so even while trying to offload risk and its consequences on the government–which is why the mention of social security, the public schools, or health care policy gives us out-of-my-face-with-you! libertarians high blood pressure.)

    To a lot of people, that looks like chaos–the lawlessness of a country formed by people who swore off the traditions of their homelands to follow their bliss. While many of the traditions peoples repair to in structuring their societies are illiberal, I don’t think the overall results are flat-out unjust if everyone has the right of exit and those who stay do so out of choice. If Karen Hughes can emphasize to foreign audiences how the Afghan constitution, the transition government in Iraq, and the democracy movement in Lebanon represent the adoption of democracy in a way that’s sensitive to local preferences, she’ll be doing a good thing.

    One Response to “The world street”

    1. Simon World says:

      Daily Linklets 30th March

      This is a daily collection of links, some with commentary, to news stories and interesting blog posts. It will be updated throughout the day with a new timestamp for the updates. Scroll down for today’s other posts. Shenzhen Ren has moved. Updated your bookmarks. The changing value of guanxi in Chinese business. Check out the New Blog Showcase for this week. (11:22) Hong Kong hookers go hi-tech. At the same time Greenpeace are lamenting Hong Kong’s “e-waste”. And they are not talking about spam. Hungry Chinese countrysiders are moving for better food sources. It’s not easy being a panda. I don’t want to say I told you so back in June last year, but Cathay Pacific limits the number of trips its staff makes direct from Hong Kong to New York. Do you think they’ll get around to warning passengers sometime soon? Ocean Park has even got Xinhua shilling…

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